Monday, June 01, 2009

The Story So Far... (A three-reel epic and still counting!)

# "I don't wanna feel so different, but I don't wanna be insignificant, and I don't know how to see the same things different now..." # - Counting Crows



There's a great line in a classic Laurel & Hardy two-reeler short film called The Fixer Uppers that goes "Merry Christmas, Momma... Happy Birthday Ma... Hey-nonny-nonny and a ho-cha-cha!" and sitting down to write this post that line is whirling round and round in my head because I wanted to do something special to mark the 3rd anniversary of both the beginning of this, my writing blog AND my Official Writing website, yet at the same time, it's a bit odd to be patting myself on the back and saying "Happy Blogthday, Chris!"

But to mark this momentus occasion I must do just that, and for anyone new to my book blog and random writing ramblings on the web, this anniversary post will hopefully also serve as a fitting introduction to who I am and what I've done so far with my writing on the web, and show some of the main efforts I've gone to so far, to spread word of my "Moon Crater"TM novel over the past three years...




Because I wanted to make this a "stand-out" post, and because I do tend to waffle on a bit too much sometimes here in my blog writing, I'm going to make this a mix of my words and also a "picture-book" type of post - after all, everyone always says pictures tell a thousand words, right? And after three years of blogging and "webbing", I've probably gabbed too much with my keyboard already and need a breather to help me get geared up for the next three... and beyond! So, here now, without further ado, for your viewing pleasure, I present my "flip-book of a blog so far"...

3 years of The Blog - "I could never keep a new-year's diary when I was young!"
The whole idea of creating a blog came from a friend who one day back at the start of 2006 said to me, "Ever heard of web logs? You should get yourself one of those for your writing", and after some initial suspicious sessions reading the FAQs of Blogger Help pages, I decided to give it a go... Over the years the look of my blog journal has changed between three main "skins" - first I started out with the writerly Blogger template of "Scribe" with a somewhat cryptic title of "The Secrets to life's mysteries lie in the memories we carry", then in an attempt to capture the feel of my evolving "Moon Crater"TM novel more, I happened on a free blog skin called "Top Secret" and switched my blog over to that spy-centric look... The "Adventure" view of my blog page as it stands today evolved slowly and was first envisioned with a "sketchbook" sort of "look" but then I discovered the joys of Photoshop and after a few hours holed up in my study one day I produced the final big "All About The Adventure" header picture that adorns it today. I'm happy to remain with this original 'skin' for the forseeable future as for me the sense of fun and adventure in the act of writing it evokes in even myself, who originated it, still lives on every time I load the page up...

I've somehow managed to rack up almost 90 posts over the three years that I've been blogging (87 now officially if anyone's keeping count) and that's an average of about 30 a year - but they haven't all been about the book I'm writing - since setting up the blog, my aims have expanded into not only spreading word about the stories I want to tell myself but also in sharing my experiences of writing with other aspiring scribblers, be they good or bad!

And one of the most successful experiments I've done with the blog is to create 3 writing polls as I've finished off my "Moon Crater"TM novel... The polls themselves and their results are preserved in links lower down the sidebar of this page but they stand as a testament to the "interative" nature of the kind of writing I want to always do and have helped to prove to myself that blogging about writing can be a successful and rewarding exercise.

I began my writing life in school and uni with journalism and so another thing I looked forward to doing when creating my blog was the freedom to write “feature” posts, writing about anything and everything with the personal caveat that whatever the subject it had to be writing related somehow! You can peruse the “labels” and “tags” section in the sidebar to see the various categories these have fallen into over the past three years…


Another useful thing that I knew keeping a blog would be was a tool to keep me motivated with my creative writing – so back in early 2007 I began what I called my “Big Write-up” of my first novel and over the course of 6 months documented my progress from week to week here on the blog… I just kept to the notion that if I “promised” to write here on the blog about it each week, that would keep me going with the novel write-up, and I’m happy to report it worked a treat!

The last thing I’d say about keeping the blog for the past three years is that it’s been great fun… And in setting it up, that was one of my main aims – I just wanted to have some honest fun with a free, easy-to-maintain webpage, and, of course, in the process, give out some clues and hints as to what the narrative and plot of my book would be…

So after three years, here's my own favourite top 10 blog posts so far (in no order of importance, just chronological...)
  1. On the places we grow up in… (June, 2006)

  2. On fandom and geeky following of T.V. shows… (June, 2006)

  3. On writing from a local perspective… (September, 2006)

  4. On stories within stories… (December, 2006)

  5. On the importance of teaser trailers… (January, 2007)

  6. On the importance of preserving timelines… (March, 2007)

  7. On the power of childhood imagination... (March, 2008)

  8. On being lost for words, and accepting it… (August, 2008)

  9. On the obsessions of life… and writing… (October, 2008)
  10. On the lessons history can teach us… (March, 2009)

3 Years of the Official Website - "But I still can't write html to save my life!"


The story of my Official Writing Website really runs parallel with my blog because it was around the same time in 2006 that the same friend who recommended I set up a blog also began to help me to design and set up a minimal-cost website to act as a companion piece to my regular writing on the blog, and which crucially would help me build momentum for the mystery story of my book...

I always intended the scattered “random” objects across that Homepage to raise immediate interest and questions in readers’ minds about how each one could relate to the book (and, by the way, they DO relate to it too even though they’re used to link to other aspects of my writing as well!)

It all began back in June 2006 when the site launched with a simple "waiting" page displaying a “clock” and the message "Site under secret research and investigation - bookmark this page as the hunt for the Missing Reel begins here soon!" This was soon followed by a replacement “X-ray” picture of what would become the eventual homepage view of the desktop you still see to this day… These were basically my initial attempts to tease the story to potential readers and gain a following (albeit, back then, as still an “unknown writer” it was probably just my friends and family watching the page!)

I’ve always maintained a personal rule that until I get to be a fully-fledged author (i.e. my writing pays its own way!) I would try to build an official website in as inexpensive a manner as I can and so as more pages have been created over at the main website keen readers will have recognized a real mix of “free” web builder pages being used – Blogger, Google Sites and even YouTube pages. I know the arguments about “keeping design streamlined" but to this day, three years after beginning the site, I still stick by my mantra to create the site as cheaply as possible while still attempting to keep it looking professional (and not cheap!)


I have to of course admit that the last three years haven’t all been plain sailing (despite enjoying every minute of building a web presence for myself and my writing!) and I have made my blunders along the way. The most notable of these in my mind is the failed T.W.I. hoax but it did arise from my constant search of using words as puzzles and I did learn a lot from this “mistake” and took note of how to not “mislead” readers but rather tease them towards a proper goal after that T.W.I. “fiasco”…

And one such success on my website of this past year or so that’s arisen out of the lessons learned is through The Zip Code Challenge which arose directly like a phoenix out of the ashes of my original T.W.I. “experiment”. Solving The Zip Code is an ongoing challenge for readers and I’d hope it would run right up until I succeed in getting my “Moon CraterTM novel published – readers and eagle-eyed followers of The Code’s clues will gain exclusive insights into the pages of my book and other future aspects of my writing too…

Another success that’s accessible through my Official Writing Website is a still-emerging interactive story called "Moon Crater Adventures” (which incidentally turns 3 years old in 2010 – a very spacey year!). I’d sum it up by saying it’s an excellently exciting experiment that's expanding all the time! Together with talented artist Rich Windass, this online “branching story" is gaining pace (check back on this bog next month and in November for full updates on how the Adventures are progressing…)

My hopes for the next three years of webbing and blogging are pretty humble and simple really... I'd like to get more comments on my blog posts - not by being more controversial necessarily but by getting more attention on the blog itself somehow (not by using ads though! I won't crack to that pressure!) The obvious method would be to get my novel published! I'd also like to make sure all of the pages of the main website are finished and clickable - and funnily enough...


...thankfully, now after three years chipping away at it I now know how ALL objects on my desktop homepage will be defined! (I sort of didn't at the start and just laid out some random, although ALL-connected-to-my-novel objects on a table to make my homepage photograph!) and even if all of those objects are not still all clickable yet I have a notebook with a proper timetable for the coming year with when I want to release and unlock each remaining page of the site! But to whet the appetite for now and since this anniversary celebration calls for some kind of teaser presents to readers, I can let you know that as well my official FaceBook book group and my own Twitter page AND the "Moon Crater"TM Myspace page being added to my official site, the top 3 brand new pages coming very soon to findthemissingreel.com will be (perhaps cryptically!) called:

10 Years of the book...

It was back last December when I first talked about how 2009 would mark the decade of my novel - I still remember the late autumn day when I had the idea sitting reading the Saturday Telegraph manning the till in a charity bookshop that I volunteered in as an unemployed English graduate. "Lost & Found" was the very first working title I scribbled down for what I then thought would be just a "short" story, inspired by an article in that weekend newspaper (heck, I wish I'd kept that article now!) - little did I know the ten-year adventure that that small scrap of paper would take me on... But here I am today, ambitious, eager and ever ready to learn and continue to hone my skills as a writer. That's why I'm a firm believer that History Matters and you should read, learn and draw on the past to influence your present and inform you future...


So it's without doubt appropriate that now at this three-year mark of both using the world wide web to put my scribbles "out there" and as a motivating tool for my creative writing that I’ve now also finished the final draft of my manuscript for what I'd like to be my first novel and drafted my submission to literary agents...


I said at the beginning of 2009 that this year was going to be "all about the book" and I've blogged less and scribbled more at my "Moon Crater"TM novel but I look forward in 2010 to getting back to some short story writing too... All in all, it's been a great three years (and 10 for the book!) so here's to "many happy returns...", and as ever I leave you, dear reader, with the promise of more to come in the next three years and beyond, both here on my blog and of course across at my Official Writing Website...

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